Back in October, Richard Malouf, the Dallas dentist accused of massive Medicaid fraud, sued real estate blogger Candy Evans, who had published photos of the small waterpark that appeared to be under construction in his backyard. For good measure, he and his wife Leanne also sued WFAA and their reporter Byron Harris for reporting on the construction in a manner they alleged was false and defamatory. And just to make things really awkward, they threw in their neighbor Laura Wilson, who they claim allowed Evans to crawl atop her roof and take photos of the goings-on at the Malouf place.
Dr. Malouf is a tall, beaky man, who looked both weary and pissed off as he sat in the witness stand this morning in County Court at Law 3. It was the third day of a hearing to determine whether the couple would be granted a temporary injunction against Evans, and Ms. Malouf, a tall blonde, also looked quite displeased from her seat in the gallery. Even the army of lawyers in the room seemed unusually irritated with one another. (I counted nine attorneys in the room: three with the Maloufs, three with Evans, one for Wilson, and two for WFAA. At some point after a break, another one appeared, almost as though they were spawning somewhere beneath the courthouse.)
As CultureMap reported earlier, over this week the temporary injunction hearing has spun wildly past its original purpose. On Tuesday, a real estate agent representing a house across the road was called to testify, as was the Maloufs personal chef and house manager.
Much of the testimony from that day was about David Kinney, the Malouf's former house manager, who Richard Malouf says was fired after the couple discovered a hidden camera in their closet. He also alleges that Evans told Kinney to plant it there.
"After he was fired, a plethora of the most intimate details came out," he said while being cross-examined by Evans' attorney, James Bell. "Details that couldn't have come out any other way." Under questioning from Bell, he admitted that he didn't have any direct evidence that the camera was Evans' doing.
Bell asked Malouf repeatedly how many times he's personally seen Evans on their property (once, at his daughter's birthday party, a year or so ago). He also had lots of questions about whether Evans had ever opened the couple's mail, searched the property, tapped the phones, personally installed any surveillance equipment or photographed his "movements" or that of his wife. (In the comments section of her blog, Evans has also flatly denied doing any of that. "I did not climb the neighbor's roof, trespass past private gates, use zoom lenses, bribe anybody, invade a child's birthday party, lay in wait for anyone, none of it," she wrote in one comment. "NONE!")
Malouf eventually answered "No" to most all of Bell's questions -- when he'd try to give a longer or more circuitous answer, the lawyer would object. And object. And object. Judge Montgomery was clearly getting irritated.
"We're gonna move on," she said at one point. "Because this has gotten absurd."
Bell also accused Malouf of filing a false police report against Evans for trespassing, when he admitted that he didn't know if someone he'd seen on the property was her or an agent from WFAA.
"It's hard to tell where she starts or they stop," Malouf replied angrily. "They're all conspirators in this. You better believe I filed it, absolutely."
It also became clear that Bell was doing his best to avoid mentioning the various things that the Maloufs found out about through Evans' blog. This entry, for example, seems to have served as the catalyst for including Laura Wilson in the suit. Evans writes that you can't see much of the Maloufs new toys from the street, adding, "Oh but you can see plenty from the neighbor's yard, hint hint." The Maloufs say some of the pictures of their construction were clearly taken from Wilson's roof.
"The problem with your cross examination is you're ignoring your client's blog," the judge advised him.
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But Bell argued that the pictures didn't necessarily point to a shadowy conspiracy between Evans, Laura Wilson, WFAA, et. al. "This is a false petition," he told the judge at one point, waving the Malouf's complaint about.
With that, Dentist Malouf was excused, and Lady Malouf took the stand, ready to testify. But Bell asked for a ten minute recess and took Evans and their other attorneys out for a quick chat in the hall. He came back to announce that Evans had agreed to the temporary injunction after all, which will prevent her from entering onto the Malouf's property, touching it, or "evading its natural sight lines" to take photos of it, i.e. by climbing up on a ladder or a roof.
"She has to stay off the property," said John Schorsch, another one of the Malouf's lawyers. "If she has a concern about where the line is, don't go near the line."
This fascinating sniping will continue in mid-September, when the case is slated to go to trial.